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Parshas Tazria/Metzora - Eretz Yisroel-There's No Place Like Home         3 Iyar 5781 

04/15/2021 09:57:39 AM


On May 14, 1948, just a little over three years since the Holocaust came to an end, the State of Israel was officially declared; on May 11, 1949, The United Nations General Assembly admitted Israel to membership in the UN by a vote of 37-12. The delegations of the six Arab countries (Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen) walked out of the Assembly Hall in protest. The UN vote recognizing the State of Israel miraculously occurred. Unfortunately, only a short seventy-two and seventy-three years later, the Holocaust is either being openly denied, or perhaps worse, commended throughout the world. The State of Israel, which in 1948 did not have complete support from the world, now faces challenges even from those who supported it then. Today, despite Israel’s contributions to the world and being recognized as a beacon of democracy throughout the Middle East, continuously faces calls for its destruction and, again, maybe worse - is attacked and labeled as a racist and oppressive country.

Within a span of nine days many Jews throughout the world annually commemorate Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron - Israel Memorial Day, and celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel’s day of Independence.  I carefully worded the fact that many but not all Jews observe these specific days. There are many Halachik reasons and arguments on both sides regarding the observance of these days. I will not divert into any of those discussions, choosing instead to focus on one word that connects all of these events: ‘Kodesh’- Holy - the same word that connects the Jewish people to Hashem. The Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust ALL died Al Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name for the mere fact that they were killed because they were Jewish. Additionally, each and every oneof the men and women who died while in the Armed Forces defending Eretz Yisroel all died Al Kiddush Hashem.  Each of the victims of terror who were murdered in Eretz Yisroel by terrorists ALL died Al Kiddush Hashem. The land of Israel is called ‘Eretz HaKedosha” - the Holy land.       

In a pre-Pesach article, I mentioned a few points from a discussion I heard from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Wein. Rabbi Wein told us of a custom which he continues to practice - the insistence on drinking wine from Israel at the Seder. At that point he maintained a continuation of the story of Yetzias Mitzrayim with the Jewish people headed to the land of their forefathers.

Today, some three thousand years after the exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people are once again entering and populating the Holy land of Israel. Many have heard that Israel is known as the ‘Start Up Nation’. Israel is a leader in so many products ranging from medicine, science, technology, food, beverages, and more. Israel has become the center of Jewish life and affords the comfort of being a Jew with all the amenities and fewer distractions than other places in the free world. Yet there seems to be a tendency for so many Jews to travel to other destinations rather than visiting  Israel.

We need to be aware of the importance of not only supporting Israel by purchasing Israeli products because to do so helps Israel’s economy,  but because things that come from the Holy Land are holy. But how did the founders of modern-day Zionism view Eretz Yisrael? In 1903, Theodore Herzl presented a plan referred to as The Uganda Scheme  to the Sixth Zionist Congress in Basel. It proposed the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in a portion of British-controlled East Africa. Herzl presented the plan as a temporary refuge for Jews to escape rising antisemitism in Europe. At the Congress the proposal met stiff resistance.  

To contrast this, one needs to read about how the religious leaders and great Rabbonim characterized Eretz Yisrael. An interesting source from the ערוך השלחן (Aruch HaShulchan}, written by Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, came across one of my chat groups.  The Aruch HaShulchan first printed in 1884, many years prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in Eretz Yisrael. I mention the year to juxtapose the current events at that time, only nineteen years before the sixth Zionist Congress. Just as Rabbi Wein mentioned using Israeli wine at his seder, the Aruch HaShulchan wrote an important and eye-opening halacha on the mitzva of lulav and esrog. Rav Epstein wrote about the esrogim that were grown in the Carpathian Mountains and other surrounding regions, explaining that most were possibly grafted since the majority of the orchards were run by non-Jews.  Due to the great distances of the locations of these orchards, rabbis could only make occasional inspections of the esrogim to assure that they were not grafted and therefore approved for religious use.

Rav Epstein writes in Orach Chaim 648:29 as follows:

ולפי זה אין לנו שום היתר על אתרוגים, רק אותם שישראלים מעידים שיודעים הנטיעות מתחילתן, שאין בהם שום הרכבה. כמו אתרוגי ארצינו הקדושה, שבשם גדולי ישראל, ותלמידי חכמים, ויראי אלקים משגיחים על הגינות, שלא יהיה בהן שום הרכבה. אבל לאתרוגי קורפ"ו – אין שום היתר, אף בההכשרים שלהם, שידוע לכל שישראל מעטים שם, וכבושים תחת ידם, ויראתם על פניהם. ואיך ידעו מה שעושים על פני השדה בגינותיהם ובכרמיהם, אם ירכיבו אם לאו?ושמא תאמר: הרי אינם חשודים להכשיל רק מה שיש להם טובת הנאה, כמבואר ביורה דעה סימן קיח? איברא דזה יש להם טובת הנאה רבה, דידוע דכל מורכב גדל ממנו פירי יפה, וכל שאינו מורכב – הפירי אינה יפה. ובכל הפירות כן הוא. ואדרבא תקונם של אתרוגי קורפ"ו זה הוא קלקולם, דבאמת הם יפים מאד ואין דומה להם, וזהו מפני הרכבתם. ולכן כל איש מישראל אשר נגע יראת ד' בלבו – לא יקח רק אתרוגי ארץ ישראל. ואיך לא נבוש ולא נכלם בדבר מצוה שנוכל לקיימה מפרי ארצנו הקדושה, ליטול דווקא מארץ העמים? אוי לה לאותה בושה, אוי לה לאותה כלימה! ועל זה נאמר: "וימאסו בארץ חמדה". ולכן יש ליזהר בזה מאד מאד. (גם הלבוש, והמגן אברהם סוף סימן זה, והט"ז בסימן הבא – פסלום.)

(The following is a translation of the section in bold) “Therefore, every Jew who has a fear of Heaven in his heart – should only take an Esrog from Eretz Yisrael. And how is it that there is no shame and humiliation, with the ability to fulfill the Mitzva with a fruit from Our Holy Land, and instead specifically take from a foreign land? Woe to that shame, woe to that humiliation! Upon this the verse in Tehilim 106:24 states “And they despised the desirable land…”. Therefore, one should be very, very careful in these matters”.

There are many ways to show our love, affection, and dedication to Eretz Yisrael. Whether buying Dead Sea spa products, Tefilin, or Bamba, these purchases not only support the Israeli economy; they connect us to Eretz Yisrael. Every Friday night I offer Osem soup nuts and I remark, ”Who wants a taste of Eretz Yisrael?” Our diet both physically and spiritually should be nourished through Eretz Yisrael. We should all merit to live, breathe and walk the length and breadth of Eretz Yisrael as our forefather Avraham Avinu did when he was promised the Land from Hashem for his children in future generations.  


Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Sun, September 25 2022 29 Elul 5782